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Finding fulfillment at work

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Monday is Labor Day in the US and Canada, a national holiday that dates back to the 1880s. It has its roots in the labor movement and is celebrated in September in North America, distinct from most of the world which celebrates the International Workers Day on May 1.

Our Christian faith has much to say about labor and work. God was a worker God and a creative God. He then asked mankind to be creative and to take care of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28Genesis 2:15). Thus work was and still should be an activity of fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction.

Deuteronomy 8:18 validates the ability that God has given to us to create wealth.

I have long been a fan of Paul Sohn’s blogs and this one caught my attention because he highlights Simon Sinek in a short 2-minute video which reminds us that we should be fulfilled at work: Simon Sinek On How To Find Fulfillment At Work. Fulfillment comes as we think about others first through generosity and trusting relationships. It is part of our commitment as God worshipers to obey his commands, one of which is to do good to all. Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment – doing good and loving our neighbor.1

As we focus on building start-up businesses and determine the culture of our business, let us think about how we value work and we value our people, thus developing a culture which puts God first and then people – all above our own self-interests.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

“If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business…make it about them, not you.” Simon Sinek

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Wired for gold

Monday, August 29, 2016

In August, Ashton Eaton won the Olympics decathlon gold medal for the second consecutive time, a feat not accomplished since 1984. He holds the world record in that event.

How is it that a poor kid from a small town in central Oregon with no resident father could rise to be called the “World’s Greatest Athlete”? I learned the answer while listening to Ashton and his mother Roz speak at a TEDX event in Bend, Oregon earlier this year.

Roz, a single mom spoke on the topic, “How to Raise an Olympian”1. She was complemented in her speech by her son Ashton. As it turns out, Roz knew nothing about the events of the decathlon, nothing about athletics and she had no money for sending Ashton to sports camps and clubs. But she taught him something more important which set the stage for his success.

Roz consistently told Ashton, “We have to find out who you are and pursue greatness in whatever that is.” She never said “do this” or “do that”. She never sent him to school to learn to run and jump. She taught him to be “comfortable in his own skin”, to find out how God had made him and to develop that to the fullest extent.

For a while Ashton thought he wanted to be a fighter pilot, then a Ninja Turtle (typical of childhood dreams), but he soon learned that God gave him athletic ability. As that became more and more evident, coaches emerged who saw the talent and worked with him in high school and at the University of Oregon. But Roz taught him to know who he was and develop it fully.

Wired for business

That got me to thinking about how God has wired people for business, for creating jobs, and for creating wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). When that becomes evident it is all important that those people pursue that ability to the fullest. Mats Tunehag quips, “If God has called you to business, do not stoop to be a pastor or missionary.” Be a Kingdom business owner, manager or entrepreneur if that is how God has wired you. It is a high and holy calling as much as anything else.

IBEC looks for men and women gifted and ‘wired’ for business and ready to use that for the glory of God to the ends of the earth. Is that you?

1 Watch this on YouTube: How to Raise an Olympian | Roz & Ashton Eaton | TEDxBend.

An added note: Ashton Eaton is married to Canadian Brianne Thiesen Eaton, winner of the bronze medal in the 2016 heptathlon in the Rio Olympics.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Do you have clear KPIs for your Kingdom business?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What if Jesus was your boss? What if he was the chairman of your board? What if you reported to him each month for your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?

What would he expect that those KPIs would be? How would he measure how you are doing?

A wise owner or manager continuously keeps his KPIs in mind. He knows that accountability is a key factor in driving results. So it is with God as the owner of our businesses because Kingdom business owners see themselves as stewards.

KPIs should be clear, short and understandable to everyone in the business. They should be measurable and uncomplicated. Either you achieved them or you didn’t; they are not fuzzy.


We expect secular entrepreneurs to think profit margins and growth. But what about Kingdom business owners? Yes, definitely. Jesus himself established a KPI for profit as a measure of success when he told the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). He made it clear that everyone is entrusted with wealth in unique proportions. In his example he told of one who received five bags of gold and he doubled it; another received two and he doubled it. Both were commended because they “put their money to work.” Jesus said, “Well done.”

On the other hand, one person received one talent and did nothing with it. We might have thought Jesus would have said: “…oh well, he is just not a business guy!” No – he also was expected to be profitable and when he did not even invest the gold in low-interest accounts, he was called “wicked”.

In the Old Testament, God himself told Moses that “…it is he (i.e. God) who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Only business creates wealth – not government, education, the church, or medicine – they all consume it. Business makes a profit, creates wealth and is a key KPI for Kingdom owners.


Christians are God’s ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). Imagine – ambassadors of the King of the Universe; the one who is the Creator God and gave us the ability to create wealth. It should be obvious that he expects us to do everything with excellence. “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Excellence should be a KPI; it is measurable. When God made all things (Genesis 1, 2) he said it was good. We are his “… handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (Ephesians 2:10). To be good is to be of the highest worth. Whether we produce a product or service, it must be good (i.e. excellent) and that should have a measurement connected to it – a KPI.

One way to set the stage for excellence in all you do is to say so in your values statement. David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby wrote this value among other things in his statement of purpose: “Offering our customers an exceptional selection and value.” What a gutsy thing! That held Hobby Lobby to a high standard of excellence, especially when quantified in a way that can be measured.

Excellence buys us the privilege to be overt about Jesus in the marketplace. Because we produce a quality product or service, we then have a right to let people know that the reason is that we are an ambassador of the King. To use a sports metaphor, think Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow, or Russell Wilson!

Making Kingdom of God a priority

Another of David Green’s statements of value declares: “Honoring God in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. Such a statement helps Hobby Lobby be accountable since anyone could challenge a decision, an activity or any part of corporate affairs by asking if it is consistent with a Biblical principle.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he talked about Kingdom thinking and Kingdom results. He made it clear that key decisions should focus on eternity, not the temporal only. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20). What does this mean for your company? How can this KPI be a key indicator, measurable in a monthly standard?

One way is to take Jesus’ commands seriously and develop measurements which will tell us each month how we are doing. For example, Jesus talked about the top two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).

What does it look like to love God in our business? Everyone can think of ways. One business client in Indonesia posted a biblical proverb on the door where everyone entered each day. The majority Muslim workforce understood that this came from the bosses’ “holy book” and this showed he loved God and it led to significant conversations.

What about loving your neighbor? Business as Mission operatives job creation as loving their neighbor in a world of poverty, injustice, and unemployment, especially when done with integrity, fairness, and justice. It speaks to the employees and the community and attracts people to God himself. When we see people as God’s creation and we give them dignity through job creation, we are loving them in alignment with God’s idea of love.

But there is another of Jesus’ commands called the Great Commission. We are to make disciples – we are to help all peoples to know God and to follow him. Dale Losch, author of A Better Way says disciple making is “pre cross” and “post cross”. Non-followers of Jesus are watching us even if they are not yet his full disciple. All that we do is representative of God and his desire that his Kingdom be built on earth and in heaven. We must figure out ways to make this a KPI in our business.

Social impact

Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, calmed the weather, raised the dead and certainly had an influence on the culture of his day. Kingdom businesses in today’s world can influence and lead culture with their impact.

It is not just social enterprises which should have social impact. Even if you are making widgets, you can develop a KPI which has social impact like Jesus did. Bill began to listen to God’s voice telling him to care about the handicapped on the streets of his city. He took them off the streets and gave them jobs. Over time this created such a change in the city, that city managers in his Asian country began to boast about him at conferences they attended in other cities. Society was being impacted because Bill saw social concerns as something he could develop into a KPI.

In education, they call them behavioral objections; some businesses use the term long and short term goals. Others call them Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Whatever the term, every business person needs to have indicators which demonstrate clear and measurable progress. Start developing some today.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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BAM startups and the testing of fire

Saturday, August 13, 2016

“I delight in my insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

My wife and I have lived in central Oregon for the past six years. This small town of 2,000 inhabitants has been a peaceful place after living in Philadelphia for 17 years and in a large Brazilian city for 21 years before that. Here there is little crime, good weather, and only one potential natural disaster – FOREST FIRE!

We have seen several fires in these six years, a couple of them really big. As I write this blog several hundred firefighters have just departed our small town along with their airplanes, helicopters, trucks and scores of tents. They licked this one in record time.

There is no doubt about it, a forest fire is destructive – but did you know it is not all bad? Fire is both an enemy and a friend. Fire cleans the forest floor, removing windfalls and other debris and opens up the sunlight and brings nourishment to the soil. This allows the trees to grow stronger and healthier. Many fires clear wildlands of heavy brush and leave room for new grasses, herbs and regenerated shrubs that provide food and habitat for many wildlife species.

Near Sisters, Oregon where I live, there are a lot of controlled burns. The idea is that low-intensity flames help prevent large damaging fires that spread out of control and completely destroy forests and residences. Fire also kills diseases and insects that prey on trees and thus keeps the forest healthy. Vegetation that is burned by fire provides a rich source of nutrients that nourish remaining trees.

All of this makes me think about the fire of adversity in a business person’s life and in the life cycle of a Kingdom business. The scriptures teach us much about the importance of the refiner’s fire which purifies, restores and tests us – thus making us stronger and better prepared for what faces us in the future (Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 5:10; Job 23:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

What are those tests which are the “fires of affliction” in a BAMers career? I understand these to be things which are outside our control; things we could not have prevented through due diligence or by “counting the cost.” These are afflictions which are the “natural disasters” in the life of a Kingdom business owner.

Macroeconomic Challenges

These are economic issues which exist at the national level and relate to the country or region’s fiscal policy such as tax structure, monetary policy, the currency, or the banking system. This section cannot do justice to a complete understanding of concerns such the fluctuations of a soft currency. An example would be the Brazilian currency in the 1980s when hyperinflation could deflate significant purchasing power overnight. Such instability frustrates international trade agreements and internal business operations alike. I well remember holding a one million unit note in my hand realizing that it was worthless.

Emerging black markets in unstable economies create ethical dilemmas of survival for Kingdom businesses which seek answers among difficult alternatives. How does one pay taxes when the stated “lawful” taxes for income, property, sales, import-export etc. totals more than 100% of revenue. Clearly, no business in that market can survive and at the same time be law-abiding.

In the United States, we have GAAP standardized accounting systems, but most developing countries have no such standards. These are modern day examples of Judges 21:25 “…everyone did as they saw fit.” The net result is a decision-making dilemma and the dire consequence of being unable to please both God and corrupt officials. This would be the equivalent of the fire of adversity.

Political Challenges

We know that our Judeo-Christian history has bequeathed us a “rule of law” society, issuing from the likes of the Laws of Moses, John Locke, and the US Constitution. However, many developing countries can be categorized as police relationship-based (at best) or police states (at worst). It is who you know not what you know. In short – officials play by their own rules.

The political challenges include potential expropriation of assets, nationalization of a company, differing and unstable legal systems, unbinding contracts, corruption as normal, powerless police, religious persecution, and political instability. These issues are not aberrant behavior – they are normal behavior.

I remember one of our clients in the former Soviet Union doing all he could to secure good contracts for the purchase of their agricultural product. However, when a glut occurred in the market, the customer refused to purchase the ripened product and our client essentially lost everything. What did a contract mean? It simply was of value if it was to their advantage and not to the advantage of the expatriate business owner.

Unique Expatriate Challenges

In most ways, expatriate business owners are dependent on individuals who hold power. For example, foreigners living abroad are granted visas to live in a host country. The country has all the power to provide a visa, refuse a visa, or rescind a visa. In another example, local partners can turn against a foreign business owner when least expected. A client discovered one day that his local partner, an attorney, had decided to take off with all the business assets and there was very little he could do about it. Prior to this, he had done all the right things in mitigating this disaster. As one pundit said, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Religious persecution is well known in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist world. There is a fine line between laws which prohibit proselytism and our desire to share our faith. In the end, however, we are at the mercy of local authorities. We have found that the best mitigating factor against religious persecution is to have a legitimate profitable business, provide an excellent service, and create local jobs.

Security issues are unique to the expatriate business owner, whether it be electronic security or security of one’s family in dangerous places. These are real challenges and despite the best efforts to mitigate eventualities, stuff happens.

The Challenge of Culture

It is mandatory that entrepreneurs planning to start businesses in other cultures learn both the language and also the fundamental cultural components of that culture. That sounds simple in a single sentence but that is a life-long endeavor. This is so much more than knowing when to “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands”; it is a complex process of learning a worldview and how that extrapolates to cultural norms.

Part of the challenge relates to cultural implications which are so opposite to our enculturation that we tend to resist and try to change that culture. For example, after living in Latin America for 21 years I still had a hard time accepting that sometimes “no” means “yes” and “yes” can mean “no”. This is rooted in another culture’s priority of relationships and not rules; truth is not absolute, concrete and empirical but is determined by situations and people. Group insiders determine what is true and real and it takes time to be a group insider. This explains the difficulty in contract law or in determining what a response to a critical business question might really mean.

Geert Hofstede has helped business people understand complex elements of differing cultures. For example, the Power Distance Index (PDI) informs us how in many cultures with a high PDI, subordinates are highly dependent on bosses. They do not talk to them and certainly do not dispute their autocratic decisions, while in a low Power Distance culture such as ours, we freely interact with management and prefer consultation in decision making. In high PDI cultures, there might be wide gaps in salary between top and bottom, and certainly in social status. All of this has business implications that might not be readily understood. We can make mistakes which may seem like a fire of oppression has hit us.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means but it is somewhat representative of the fires of oppression which can be natural in nature. Are they avoidable? Even if appropriate mitigating factors have been considered, the cost has been counted, and risk assessments have been done professionally, there are still things that might not be avoidable. If and when they happen we know that they can be used by the Almighty to make us stronger and healthier – better prepared for the future. Just like a forest after a fire!

“The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

For a good discussion of the challenges of BAM, read:

C. Neal Johnson, Business as Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL: p. 417.

Hofstede, Geert. Cultures and Organizations – Software of the Mind. McGraw Hill, 1997.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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A not-so-new leadership development policy

Saturday, August 06, 2016

IBEC Board of Directors member, Dave Kier, writes a daily devotional for his family, employees and others. I am fortunate to know him and to read his daily thoughts. He gave permission to reproduce this one from July 17, 2016.

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.” Deuteronomy 17:18 NASB®

I think I will institute a new company policy. Before a new leader starts work, he or she must go to a remote cabin along a lake where there is no internet nor television. Only a simple cell phone, not a smart phone, can be taken along with the Bible and a hand full of pencils and tablets. No computer. They will have two weeks to write out the first five books of the Bible and the four gospels. At the end of two weeks, I will go and meet with them to see what they learned about leadership and try to answer any questions. After all, leadership is rooted in God’s spoken word written for us.

This exercise would reveal many things about a person. I would learn if they are disciplined enough to follow through. I would learn if they are learners or if they are the type that go through the motions. I would determine if they are humble, willing to submit to the authority of God’s word. I would learn if they can submit to my authority. They in turn, would learn more than $200,000 of college education could ever teach. I would have a true leader and they would be a better person. There’s no downside to this policy.

This is what each king assuming the throne in Israel was to do, except they only had the writings of Moses to copy. God knew that when a king had to write with his own hand His law, it would mean more to him. God knew that man can take the easy way out so he was to write it in the presence of a priest who was also to explain the difficult portions. We don’t read which kings followed the policy but we sure know which ones didn’t even try. By the time the kingdom was about to be devoured by Assyria and then Babylon, the written word of the Lord couldn’t even be found, which was why they were in dire straits.

I am not much of a policy wonk but this sounds like a very good one. I guess I would have to set the example wouldn’t I?

“Lord, Your word is powerful, sharper than any two edged sword. Your word contains the pathway to life. Your word is truth! How thankful we are that You graced us with Your spoken word written and preserved for us through the ages. Your blessings never end and we thank You. Amen”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 2)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trust. Last week we looked at three concrete actions that business leaders can take to build trust within their organizations [A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 1)]. We also looked at examples of Business As Missions (BAM) business owners I’ve worked with who applied these trust building behaviors in their companies:

1. Tell the truth and live with integrity.
2. Demonstrate competence.
3. Value people by showing that you care about them.

This week we explore three more trust building actions that result in improved business results AND Kingdom building results:

4. Demonstrate dependability and reliability.
5. Address issues directly.
6. Deliver the unexpected.

4. Demonstrate dependability and reliability.

One develops trust by being consistent, predictable, and keeping your word. Don’t be afraid to state expectations up front such as establishing policies and procedures and then following through on enforcement. If people see that they can count on you to be dependable in small things, they will trust you for the big things. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10.

One way to be consistent is to daily ask oneself if I “walk the talk” and ask others if they see you as one who “walks the talk”. Am I an example of the vision and values of the organization? It is a trust buster to say one thing and do another. This also means being accountable for actions and being responsive to the needs of others.

Joe and Kay made it a priority to live out the values of their company. They demonstrated in a reliable, consistent manner what it meant to follow Jesus’ principles and the employees saw that they “walked the talk”. When we interviewed several employees (there are 65 in total) they all stated that they loved working at the for-profit ABC English School in Asia and most had come to be disciples of Jesus.

5. Address issues directly.

There is no substitute for resolving issues head on by listening to all members in the controversy and expanding people’s involvement in the resolution process. Trust and loyalty is built when the boss addresses complaints fast, listens to everyone, and asks for their input.

The same principle holds true for customers who will learn to trust the company if complaints are addressed, information is shared and they feel they are well cared for. If a mistake has been made, admit it and provide an apology and thus restore the trust needed for a good relationship. Leaders who admit mistakes when they are wrong are not seen as weak – they are seen as being trustworthy.

Dale has developed a credible coffee outlet in Nepal because his credibility is well developed and proven. He has studied business (MBA), has become accomplished in understanding and valuing the culture and is an expert in coffee roasting and retail. In areas where he was weaker, he hired people to help him. Dale has developed competence which is widely recognized.

6. Deliver the unexpected.

One of the best ways to deliver trust is to surprise and delight customers, clients and employees. Deliver more that was promised – more service, more time, more convenience. This adds value and trust; it creates a feeling of goodwill and attracts people to the business and a sense of solidarity in the employees.

When I asked the employees of boat-builder Rob in Indonesia what they liked about working for Rob, they talked about the camping trips they did on nearby islands and how much they were appreciated. This unexpected employee “perk” created such good will that both retention and productivity increased but perhaps more importantly, it created opportunity for significant conversations about life issues.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 1)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald

In early 2016 I picked up a copy of the The Economist, entitled “The World in 2016”. An article on page 90 intrigued me entitled, “A Crisis of Trust” by Richard Eldelman.1 Mr. Edelman maintains that “trust – or, often, the lack of it – is one of the central issues of our time”. He may be right.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust issues for fifteen years, particularly between countries in the categories of government, business, technology, media, and NGOs. Technology is the most trusted sector and government is the least trusted institution worldwide. While trust in business is recovering, trust in CEOs has declined by ten points since 2011.

A recent Maritz poll2 indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest. John Blanchard’s research demonstrates that 59% of respondents indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues, citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors.3 Clearly everywhere and in every sector, trust is at a tipping point.

All of this got me thinking about missional business startups. Certainly trust is fragile – in all aspects of life, and also in business. It is imperative for clients, customers, employees and team members to trust the owner because it is often easier to mistrust than to trust. What can a business owner do to develop high levels of trust?

The simplest understanding of trust is that it centers in competence and character. If owners and managers are competent in their knowledge, practice, and in getting things done; and they are persons of integrity, reliability and promise, they are probably a person of trust.

Perhaps the following concrete actions will go a long way to building trust in the business environment.

1. Tell the truth and live with integrity

Study after study has indicated that the number one quality that people want in a leader is integrity. Business leaders need to tell it straight, be open and honest inside and outside the company. The Biblical Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) makes it clear that we are not be bear false witness. Zechariah states in 8:16, "These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace."

People need to be treated appropriately and justly and management’s actions must be consistent with the values of the company so that employees and all others can see that they can rely on the leader.

We live in a time where moral standards are being eroded, even among good Christian people. It is mandatory that our character is built upon a foundation of integrity and a commitment to spiritual development.

Sometimes this is difficult to do in a corrupt society where all around we see dishonesty, deceit and corruption. We helped Jim buy a small factory in Indonesia. One of the consultants went with him to the tax office where they revealed that they wanted to discuss ahead of time what taxes might look like for certain levels of revenue. The tax authority had never heard of such a question and developed a respect for Jim from that day forward.

2. Demonstrate competence

Competence goes a long way toward producing credibility which is foundational to trust. Can you produce results? Can you get the job done because you have the skills to make things happen? Does your product go out the door with excellence? Competence involves the technical knowledge of what the product or service entails, the operational capacity to practically get it done, and the political understanding to accomplish things in the context of the culture, organizational politics and local political milieu.

Sometimes competence is simply a formidable expertise, but sometimes it may require you to say, “I don’t know”. That demonstrates knowledge of what you do not know and allows trust to develop as you recommend another source for the client.

Dale has developed a credible coffee outlet in Nepal because his credibility is well developed and proven. He has studied business (MBA), has become accomplished in understanding and valuing the culture and is an expert in coffee roasting and retail. In areas where he was weaker, he hired people to help him. Dale has developed competence which is widely recognized.

3. Value people by showing that you care about them

People will trust you if you value them, get to know them by identifying their needs and seek to empower them in the workplace. This includes having good communication skills and showing that you are human by being open with your life. The leader then is seen as a “real” person.

One of the best ways to build trust is by sharing information so as to allow them into the inner workings of the business as much as possible. Discussion of important marketing topics, future business plans and strategies, financial data, performance feedback, current problems – all communicates trust and a sense that “we are in this together”. By giving a sense of identity to everyone, trust develops, productivity increases, morale develops, and teamwork solidifies.

The Second Commandment of Jesus mandates love as important in relationships with others. In fact Jesus said that love for God and our neighbor are the two most important things (Mark 12:31). That includes learning to listen more effectively, using names in conversation and telling people what you appreciate about them. One of the ways I found to demonstrate this was to be accessible, allowing people to come to my office just about any time.

People are valued when you respect their time. Start meetings on time, promptly return phone calls and reply to emails. Thoroughly address all points raise in communiques. Provide feedback regularly.

What does this look like in a cross-cultural startup? For Bill it simply meant that he learned to ask about the families of the employees. That simple act of love and care caused him to be called the “best boss in all of China” by one of his foremen.

Come back next week for three more actions you can take to build trust in your environment.

1. Edelman, Richard. "A Crisis of Trust." The Economist. March 13, 2016. Page 90.
2. Managing in an Era of Mistrust: Maritz Poll Reveals Employees Lack Trust in their Workplace. Available online at:

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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The desire to make a difference

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I had just landed in Africa the night before, and although I had gone nearly 24 hours without sleep, I felt alive as we began our first day just outside the city of Nairobi. The energy level I felt as I got up and looked across the mist rising above the grassy plains seemed to inject my body with an adrenaline level that could only be explained by God's sovereign grace and His desire to expose me to a world I had never seen before.As our jeep bounced along the dirt roads outside the city, the beauty of Africa was something I cannot even begin to explain.

I was there for a reason

We made our way through numerous villages that led to our final destination, each of them resembling a lifestyle that made me feel guilty for what I had left back in the states. Small, dilapidated shacks were scattered along the roadside, as children played in front of these structures they called "home". None of us in the jeep said a whole lot as we made our way to our journey's end, but I believe we were all thinking the same thing. How could these children be so happy when they had nothing like what we had grown accustomed to? Something in their smiles reminded me that Jesus was alive, and that His expectation of me on this day was to spread His Word through the gifts He had given me. I was there for a reason...

After about 30 minutes along the last winding road, we made our way to the final destination. I was part of a team that would focus on helping our partners create a sustainable business, with a desire to ultimately spread the Word of Jesus Christ through the creation of jobs.

Over the next several hours, I became connected with the family and this amazing ministry. Their joy resonated throughout the village, and their desire to learn from us was truly a breath of fresh air. Together, we began to focus on a plan that they have subsequently implemented...and they are doing an amazing job!

From the time I met with them, I felt like I was an extension of their ministry and not an "outsider" riding in on a white horse trying to fix things. Similar to our other ministry partners, I had an incredible passion to want to help them and somehow give back.

Business as Mission had hooked me

It didn't take long for me to realize that in the end, I was the one who was being blessed. Business as Mission had hooked me because I saw firsthand the impact it can have for God's Kingdom. Needless to say, my passion to help our ministry partners was stronger than ever was the least I could do.

I believe God has given each of us individual gifts that we must use for His Kingdom, and that His expectation is for us to integrate our faith into everything we do. What a privilege it is to be serving Him this way. The best way I can explain my role in Business as Mission is it represents a way for me to somehow give back. Providing hope and encouragement for those less fortunate is our mission. By representing Jesus through our actions, and not just our words, I have no doubt in my mind that others will follow. To build His Kingdom...this is why we do what we do.

Bob Bush, Managing Director, IBEC Ventures

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BAM startup team essentials

Monday, July 11, 2016

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” - Henry Ford

Well known Italian entrepreneur, Ernesto Sirolli, stated in a TED Talk that nothing is ever built by just one person. God has never created anyone who can “…make it, sell it, and keep track of the money.” His point is that it takes a team!

I try to make a habit of looking for models in real life and this was illustrated recently when staying with my wife in the hospital while she was recovering from a hip replacement surgery. People came in and out of the room – each with their unique role and purpose.

I expected the primary surgeon, and a nurse or two; but the team caring for my wife included an RN, an LPN, a Physicians’ Assistant, a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, a case manager, a clinical supervisor, housekeeping, two food service people, a chaplain … and I then lost count. Each regularly rotated in and out of the room; each with a job to do – all focused on the well-being of the patient – my dear wife.

The experience made me reflect on how a business develops from a problem to be solved or a customer to be served. Lean startup gurus Marc Nager, Clint Nelson, and Franck Nouyrigat suggest that while ideas are important, TEAM is essential.1 So what does that mean for Business as Mission (BAM) startups or for businesses attempting to scale?

What does a team look like?

A growing body of research supports the idea that investors prefer to invest in teams. History reminds us that even the “greats” such as ark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Phil Knight did not accomplish greatness alone.

A team provides the diverse capabilities and social networks important to critical customers, resources and talent, and eventual buyers for the company. The relevant components of any discussion on teams are much more complex than what one simple blog can explore. But for starters let’s look at who should be on the BAM startup team.

Team builders face many difficult questions such as: should I have a highly diverse team very different from me, or a team that is more like me in values and skills? Should I bring on people I know so that I start with high levels of trust?

9 guidelines for a BAM startup team

No founding team is perfect, but recent literature2 suggests some general guidelines:

1. Common vision: The lead entrepreneur and the team must share the same vision for the venture.

2. Common passion: Team members must be passionate about the business concept and work as hard as the lead entrepreneur to help make it happen.

3. Industry experience: At least one of the team members must have experience in the industry in which the venture is being launched.

4. Concept testing and contacts: There must be significant research and testing of the concept and then solid industry contacts.

5. Access to capital: Research and consulting help must surface appropriate sources of capital, backed up by a good credit rating for the team members.

6. Functional expertise: The team’s expertise must at least cover key functional areas such as operations, management, finance, marketing, product understanding.

7. Long haul fortitude: The team must have the time to spend on the demands of the startup and be able to endure the financial constraints of a typical startup.

I would also add these two in light of the additional demands on a BAM startup:

8. Culture and language: Many of the team members must have understanding and appreciation of the culture and language of the host nation.

9. Missional focus: All team members must understand, support and promote the missional component of an integrated enterprise.

As I review the various projects I have observed over the years, I think that many BAM endeavors lack one or more of these. I wonder whether the lack of one or more of these will result in certain failure. I wonder why most businesses do not have all nine of these items and what will it take to improve the startup preparation for BAM teams.

1 Nager, Marc; Nelson, Clint; and Nouyrigat, Franck. Startup Weekend. 2012. Page 126.

2 Allen, Kathleen R.  Launching New Ventures – An Entrepreneurial Approach. Cengage Learning, Boston: 2016. Page 176.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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7 ways to know a BAMer (and a cowboy) is for real

Monday, July 04, 2016

In early June each year the rodeo season in Oregon kicks off with the Sisters Rodeo. Four hundred cowboys drive into town with their horse trailers and teammates and compete for the prize money of champion calf roping, steer wrestling, bronco riding, bull riding and similar high risk activities.

And many would-be cowboys also ride into town in high priced motor homes, or luxury vehicles parked at 4-star hotels. These also walk around with classy cowboy boots, buckles and cool hats. How does one know the real cowboy from these dudes strolling down main street looking for a place for a $40 steak?

I was a cowboy for a weekend – twice! I guess I am a slow learner because I did not pass the test – the test of a real cowboy. Sure I can ride a horse and stay on one without fear but it is so much more. I grew up loving the old cowboy songs like, El Paso, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Amarillo by Morning, and Cool Water. But that never made me a cowboy.

What marks a real cowboy?

What is a real cowboy? Is it the hat? Is it the boots and wranglers? Is it the Skol stuffed into the lower jaw? Maybe it is the horse or the chaps or the rope? Maybe the saddle, the spurs or the horse trailer?

No, the test of a real cowboy is on the ranch of real-life activities or in the arena in front of 8,000 people living up to the expectations of the ride, or the rope. The key questions are: can he stay on any animal, no matter how wild? Can he use a rope to bring in a ‘dogie’? Can he mark a horse out of the chute? And can he wrestle a half ton steer to the ground? Can he actually do it? He is a real cowboy because he can do those things.

What marks a real BAMer?

What about Business as Mission (BAM)? ‘BAMer’ is a term often used to describe a person operating a Kingdom business in another country in another culture and language. What can he or she do? What are the behaviors and actions and activities which indicate this person might be for real?

A BAMer is a person with the requisite Competence, Character, Commitment and Charisma1 (these are topics for another article), but what then are the activities they demonstrate? What can they do?

1. Spirituality: A BAMer has a robust theology of work with an understanding that marketplace activity is worship; their business is ministry no less than any other ministry. He demonstrates this in his walk with God both in private and at work. He has a vital devotional life of study of the Word and in prayer. He treats business activity as a spiritual activity.

Kirk Parette, manager of Barrington Gifts in Asia says “every day on the factory floor is an opportunity for discipleship”. On a daily basis he integrates a life of faith and following Jesus with the work of the business, and employees see that in everyday business and life.

2. Cultural understanding and appreciation: A BAMer respects culture and is a student of it for his lifetime.He is constantly growing in the language, listening for cultural nuances and loving people within the culture. He is continually curious and the nationals notice and value it. They have friends in both the national and expat community.

That is true for Rob and his family in Indonesia. They work hard at speaking the language well, respect the culture and the employees “love working for Rob” because he values them, does things with them outside of work hours, and treats them fairly.

3. GRIT: GRIT is - Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity. He does not give up and works hard to accomplish the vision and realize the potential of his God-given wiring and the opportunities of the business.

That has certainly been true of Lee who started a business in a former Soviet republic and before long his partner had stolen his assets and left him penniless. I called him and asked him what he was going to do now. He readily responded by saying, “I have gone down the street and have opened a new office and started over.” Lee had grit.

4. Team orientation: A BAMer realizes that no person can do everything herself. As entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli affirms, “this world has never seen a person who can make it, sell it, and keep track of the money”. A good entrepreneur understands this. And good BAMers understand this and develop team members who have the varied skills of production, management, marketing, accounting, financial management etc.

Britanny understood that as she and others started Baku Roasting Company. She brought coffee production skills to the table but she surrounded herself with capital developers, managers, operational people, marketers, HR experts, an accountant and legal advice. The result – two stores in that city totally independent and sustainable.

5. Tolerance for risk: Risk is a quality of entrepreneurs, but business developers also are generally not risk averse. There are so many uncertainties to living and working in corrupt and politically unstable countries that a high tolerance of risk is mandatory. This is so true for a Jesus-follower since religious intolerance is a concern worldwide. So much of risk management is to mitigate it, but sometimes one needs to realize that to “carry our cross” is a daily necessity.

For Dave and Susie in the Balkans, a tolerance for risk became mandatory when they experienced political, religious and economic conditions destroy their first agribusiness. They continued on, learning tolerance for the cultural, economic and political irregularities and making friends with local Muslim religious and political leaders in the city.

6. Servant Leadership skills: First and foremost a BAM leader is a servant as modeled by Jesus. While serving others, the leader respects the management skills, financial expertise and production abilities of all team members. He is there to help employees and team members develop, grow and serve. The org chart has the servant leader at the bottom, serving all others to the “greater glory of God.”

That is certainly true of Bill who was called by an employee, “the best boss in all of China” simply because he cared for her family, and loved them as a servant.

7. Long haul mentality: A BAMer knows that he or she must be a life-long learner, must stay until God makes it clear that it is time to depart. This is not a short-term assignment, but a commitment which can be demonstrated over enough time to see the results of the quadruple bottom line: profitability/sustainability; SME job creation; spiritual and social transformation; and stewardship of creation.

Ryan and Jana started ABC English School and stayed long enough to see a profitable business emerge, job creation for 65 employees and lives transformed as they became disciples of Jesus. Without that long-term commitment, it is doubtful that success would have followed them.

These are just some of the things which show the world that a BAMer is for real. He or she is doing these things. They demonstrate spirituality, the value of culture and servant leadership. Everyone can see their grit and tolerance for risk and that they are in it for the long haul. They show a team orientation. Such a BAMer is a real cowboy – a real BAMer!

1 Charisma is defined by Peter Shaukat to mean the “stirring up” of God-given gifts.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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